Feb 9, 2023 | By: Mary Balstad

Bemidji City Council Draws Public Ire Over City Manager Employment Discussion

The Bemidji City Council drew public ire at Monday night’s meeting. This backlash follows the surprise announcement at a previous meeting that the council would discuss city manager Nate Mathews’s employment.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, community members, some of which included former city councilors, spoke against what they called the blindsiding of city staff and colleagues. Numerous city residents spoke at the meeting, bringing up what they called the “dysfunctional” nature of the current council and supposed talks behind closed doors, and these speakers called for accountability.

“There should be no behind-the-scenes, we have open meeting laws. All business before the council should be conducted in these chambers in the daylight with the people and the press watching,” said former Ward 4 councilor Reed Olson. “Blindsiding your colleagues and staff by adding of profound importance to the agenda does not promote transparency.”

“Your community is questioning your veracity, your motives, and your behavior,” stated former Bemidji mayor Rita Albrecht. “In addition to the unwise path council is set upon, a growing conflict within and among the city council is risking our community’s good reputation and the legitimacy of our local government. Please, please, please take some time to sit down together, roll up your sleeves, and find a way to get along.”

The council ultimately decided to pursue a regular annual review of Mathews. That annual review is scheduled for March 29.

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